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Cure Your Cabin Fever With Backyard Camping

For every nature lover, the arrival of spring is a Pavlovian cue to get out the tents, lanterns, and other camping gear. This year, after being cooped inside for months, our yearning to get outdoors is especially intense. But even for those who spurn the safety guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control as well as state authorities, there’s very little opportunity to indulge that yearning. Despite suggestions to the contrary, national parks largely remain closed, as do many state parks and private campgrounds.

In response to these restrictions, outdoor lovers around the country have devised an alternative way to indulge their wanderlust. Maybe you’ve seen the photos on social media: Families toasting marshmallows in a living room hearth, couples kicking back while a movie plays on a sheet hung from the eaves, and, of course, tents set up in backyards, walk-out basements, even on high-rise roofs. Sure, we might have scoffed at it in the past, but this spring, backyard camping is getting us through.

Why Should I Try Backyard Camping?

For hardcore outdoor adventurers, backyard camping may seem like a poor substitute for the freedom and excitement that comes from camping in the wild. But don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. After weeks of limited movement and social isolation, your mind and soul are craving a refresh, and you’ll be surprised by what a big difference this simple activity can make.

backyard camping tent toys
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There are three factors that make backyard camping so effective for beating the quarantine blues:

1. You’re Reconnecting With Your Gear

For outdoor lovers, Christmas morning has nothing on the thrill of opening up your camp box at the beginning of the season. Doing inventory, reorganizing and performing maintenance, finding excuses to buy some sweet new gear — it’s all part of the fun, even if your trip is still weeks out.

You don’t need a tangible plan or even a destination to enjoy that experience. Just taking out your gear and setting it up will get your heart pounding and your brain buzzing, as your sense memory fires up your imagination. Bury your face in your favorite fireside blanket and inhale the smoke of a hundred summer nights. Rediscover the unparalleled comfort of your faithful old camp chair. And you already know how good canned provisions taste when they’re cooked over your mini propane stove.

In the words of one of our favorite outdoor brands, Fjallraven, “Emotional longevity is the best form of sustainability.” Spending this time with your trusty gear is a powerful way to set your outdoor adventure priorities where they belong: on the experience, not on nifty new gadgets.

2. You’re Sharing the Fun

Whether you’re spending quarantine alone or with family/romantic partners/roommates, you’ve probably exhausted most possibilities for social connection. Backyard camping, if nothing else, is a novel way to entertain yourself and others. For couples, it’s a great way to rekindle the magic by getting cozy in a fun environment. For families, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach your kids basic outdoor skills, like safely lighting a fire or setting up a tent. Even solo campers can share their experience by posting on social media with one of the hashtags circulating around backyard camping.

And no, you don’t even need a backyard to get in on the fun. You can set up a “campsite” in whatever outdoor space your home offers: A deck or patio, a rooftop, even a balcony. Hell, you can even set up in the living room and just open up your windows to flood your improvised camp with fresh air.

camping indoors tent couple
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No matter how you’re living these days or who you’re living with, backyard camping is a surprisingly powerful way to relive wonderful memories and to plan out new ones.

3. You’re Resetting Your Priorities

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” This time of indoor isolation has made these aphorisms sink in as nothing else could. It’s a sad-but-true fact that even the most dedicated outdoor lovers tend to spend far less time outside than we’d like to. We get busy, we get lazy, we don’t make the plan; as a result, we only get out there once or twice before the season is over and the weather is prohibitive.

Setting up camp in your backyard or home has a curious effect. Something about seeing your gear where it doesn’t truly belong — within the confines of your backyard fence, or wedged between your TV and your recliner — powerfully galvanizes your resolve to get out there more. Lying in your tent and staring up at the stars from your backyard is a great way to indulge your wanderlust for now, but it’s an even better way to recommit to the outdoor life you love. When our public lands reopen, your camping gear is definitely going to see a lot more action.

Backyard Camping Ideas

Make a Fire

The fire is the center of every campsite — it’s one of the few non-negotiables of the outdoor experience. If you don’t have a fire pit in your backyard, a portable fire pit like this one from Primus will give you all the toasty feel-good vibes without leaving a ring on your lawn or deck. And here’s our guide to building a fire to get you started.

Get Creative with Lighting

One thing nearly every camp box can use is more and better lights. Your lighting choices are what define your campsite, and now is not the time for utilitarianism. We love BioLite’s new array of camp lighting; the BioLite BaseLantern is a do-everything option that packs flat, charges your phone, and even changes color to the beat of your music, while the string-able SiteLite Mini and the spherical SiteLite XL lantern provide the magic of a forest festival.

Play Music

One good thing about camping at home: nobody can complain that your loud music is spoiling their experience of the outdoors. An outdoor Bluetooth speaker is great while you’re setting up, but once your site is ready, swap out the iTunes for easy guitar songs, a harmonica, pots and pans, or a howling pup, and make your own music.

backyard camping tent setup teaching family
Louise Beaumont/Getty Images

Share Your Skills

Whether you’re instructing your own kid, a niece or nephew over FaceTime, or livestreaming your setup over social media, sharing your outdoor expertise is a seminal part of the camping experience. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning something yourself. Use this at-home camping endeavor as an opportunity to refine your skills with a YouTube tutorial.

Plan Your Next Adventure

If your backyard camping experience starts making you wistful for the real thing, go ahead and indulge the feeling. We love Fjallraven’s recently launched Nature Is Waiting site that provides stories, virtual tours, videos, and even a guided meditation, that all help you connect with nature from your own home. The National Parks website has a similar platform that offers virtual tours, soundscapes, baby animal videos, binge-worthy stories from our park system’s history, and even a quiz to find the perfect National Park match for your personality and interests. To continue designing your dream camping trip, browse through platforms like PitchUp and The Dyrt for user-reviewed sites and outdoor activities around the country.

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